Western Carolina football coach Mark Speir felt the lack of a quality backup quarterback derailed the Catamounts' 2017 season.
It appears he's going to see if that's the case this season.
Three-year starter Tyrie Adams, suffering from a chest injury he received a week earlier against Furman, played only a handful of snaps in the Catamounts' 66-28 loss to Samford last Saturday.
Although he hasn't officially been ruled out yet, backup Will Jones was listed on WCU's depth chart as the starter for this Saturday's home game against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
The dual-threat Adams has the top quarterback efficiency in the Southern Conference at 159.9. He has thrown for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 343 yards — eighth in the league — and four scores, and was named the SoCon offensive player of the month for September.
The freshman Jones has thrown for 274 yards and three touchdowns. If he starts, he'll become the 13th quarterback to start a SoCon game this season, and the Catamounts (3-2, 1-2) will join East Tennessee State, Furman and Mercer as the teams having started multiple players at the position.
But Speir told the Times Free Press in July that he felt good about what Jones could bring — although he hoped the freshman would get experience by design and not by necessity.
"Tyrie is such a competitor. He won't slide, won't go down, but he takes hits and gets beat up," Speir said. "Hopefully we'll be able to get Will some experience; hopefully it's just getting experience instead of having to have him, because Tyrie brings a huge dynamic to our football team. He can extend the play, keep plays alive and he's really accurate with the deep ball. He's a really good runner that makes us go, no question.
"Will is not the same kind of quarterback, but he's a quarterback we feel like can beat any SoCon opponent. We feel he's good enough to play at this level."
Samford on track?
Samford was, by all accounts, disappointing through the first month of the season.
The Bulldogs, a preseason FCS top-10 team that was the overwhelming pick to win the league, started off 1-4 with their only win against Division II Shorter. After an impressive showing against Florida State, Samford dropped consecutive games to Mercer, UTC and Kennesaw State.
If there were frustrations, those were taken out on the Catamounts last Saturday.
The Bulldogs rang up 736 yards, including 562 passing, in the 66-28 win in Birmingham. Samford forced three first-quarter turnovers in building a 35-0 lead and cruised to its first win in league play.
The Bulldogs swept the SoCon's weekly player honors. Quarterback Devlin Hodges set or tied six school records and three SoCon records with his 562-yard performance, which including seven total touchdowns (six passing). Linebacker Tre'Shun Floyd recovered two fumbles — one that he forced — while adding a sack and an interception, while Mitchell Fineran made nine extra points and a field goal in the win.
"There's been a cloud over this team," Samford coach Chris Hatcher said after the WCU game. "We've been practicing good. We've had a good attitude and there hasn't been any finger-pointing. It's been like, 'What's going on?' We've played some good teams to start the season, but we simplified things today and just played.
"I'm proud of the guys. They fought hard all season and things haven't gone our way, but it says a lot from them to come out and play like they did today."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.